The Future Is Feminist Book Collecting

How women are shaking up the rarefied world of antiquarian books

Sharon and Nikki McCutcheon/Flickr
Sharon and Nikki McCutcheon/Flickr

A. N. Devers is a writer and rare book dealer whose business, The Second Shelf, centers on all the women writers that time forgot. When she first entered the trade, she noticed that these writers were getting second shrift: sold for less money, not sold at all, and left out of the archives. Why were so many award-winning, well-reviewed books by women sliding out of print? Since rare book dealers are often the ones who shape the collections of archives and libraries—and thus the materials scholars and researchers have to work with—the Second Shelf aims to flood that pipeline with women’s work. Shift the bookshelves, and you just may shift the canon. We spoke with a number of booksellers to get a picture of the trade today, and with Devers about how she’s hoping to change it.

Go beyond the episode:

Special thanks to the minds behind the Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair, which put on such a welcoming show, and to the booksellers who humored us: Rachel Furnari of Graph Books; Bryn Hoffman of Pyewacket Books; Garrett Scott, Bookseller; Jason Rovito, Bookseller; and Heather Whitney.

Tune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek.

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Download the audio here (right click to “save link as …”)

Have suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes!

Our theme music was composed by Nathan Prillaman.

Permission required for reprinting, reproducing, or other uses.

Stephanie Bastek is the senior editor of the Scholar and the producer/host of the Smarty Pants podcast.


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